California Gubernatorial Recall Election Eve
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
SPENCER MICHELS: As Governor Gray Davis barnstormed California by plane and occasionally by foot this final weekend of the campaign, trying to save his job, he seemed buoyed by new private polls that showed the race narrowing. The last major independent poll before the weekend had Davis losing the recall, 57 percent to 39 percent. In the race to replace him, the field poll showed Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger with 36 percent, to 26 percent for Democratic lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, and 16 percent for GOP State Senator Tom McClintock. But at an Oakland labor rally for Davis, several Democratic insiders quoted polls taken in the last few days, commissioned by Democrats, that showed the recall ahead by only one to three points. Congressional Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Davis’ new numbers were encouraging.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: There’s a sea change in the polls. This is what happens when you get close to the election. The undecideds weigh in. People take a serious look at the candidates and then they decide.
SPENCER MICHELS: The new polls were done after the “Los Angeles Times” published accusations by up to 15 women that they were sexually harassed and groped by Schwarzenegger from 1975 to 2000, and after a “New York Times” story alleging that Schwarzenegger said he admired Hitler’s rise to power.
SPOKESPERSON: Well, I think that as people evaluate the people who are before them to be governor of this state, certainly that must have contributed to the impression that they had. And I think the stories about Hitler had something to do with it as well.
SPENCER MICHELS: Schwarzenegger admitted rowdy behavior with women, but denied the Hitler accusations. But even some Republicans say the allegations could change attitudes toward the actor. Tony Quinn is a former Republican consultant in California and currently a political writer. He says all the polls were showing Davis losing until recently.
TONY QUINN, Former Republican Consultant: For two months they’ve shown almost no movement at all. You got the impression that the public really had decided that they wanted to remove Gray Davis. And they were less concerned about who the alternative was. Now maybe that’s changing. Some people think that the backlash over the Schwarzenegger problems could suddenly lead to a drop in support for the recall itself.
SPENCER MICHELS: Members of Schwarzenegger’s staff admitted the allegations may erode some support, but they pointed to events like this– where several thousand of his supporters turned out in a suburb east of Oakland– as evidence that his support is so strong he’ll still win. His private bus and six buses with press from around the state, the nation, and the world who are following Schwarzenegger’s every move spent four days traveling from San Diego to Sacramento. Crowds along the way have increased at each stop. And the supporters we talked to didn’t seem to be bothered by the allegations of sexual harassment.
WOMAN: It doesn’t bother me because I don’t believe half of it. People didn’t believe it about Clinton.
WOMAN: I think it was a last-minute kind of cry for help from the Democratic Party, really.
WOMAN: You know, everybody has a past. Everybody has some history they’re probably not that happy about. And I know I couldn’t stand up to that kind of investigation. I mean, come on. So… and I think at the last minute like this, it’s just dirty politics.
PROTESTORS: No groper for governor!
SPENCER MICHELS: But not everyone at the rally was a Schwarzenegger fan. Several dozen protesters tried to get in, but were having a hard time with the security forces.
WOMAN: We need to call attention to the fact that Arnold has some very bad allegations about treating women, and he has an inability to respect women. And he shouldn’t be in the highest office in the state.
SPENCER MICHELS: On the campaign trail Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, have made little direct reference to the charges, at least in front of the crowds. As close as he came here was this:
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: But, let met you tell you something. I don’t let them tear me down. I don’t let them tear me down. (Cheers and applause) Oh, no. (Applause) They already started… they already started their puke campaign. But let me tell you something, that’s not going to help… it’s not going to help Davis at all. We are going to say hasta la vista, baby to Gray Davis. ( Cheers and applause )
SPENCER MICHELS: In an interview with ABC, he reacted more specifically to the charges.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: What is important is that I cannot remember what was happening 20 years ago and 15 years ago. But some of the things sounds like me. And this is why I was the first one to come out and say, “you know, some of the things could’ve happened.”
PROTESTORS: No recall! No recall!
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: For his part, Davis has pushed the harassment theme. In a new tactic, he tells crowds that the race has come down to him or Schwarzenegger.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS: If the news events over the last couple days have raised any doubts in your mind about the wisdom of electing Arnold Schwarzenegger, I say to you, “come home. Vote no on the recall. No on the recall.”
SPENCER MICHELS: The governor has surrounded himself with national and state political leaders and other well-known personalities. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson was on hand to warn that Schwarzenegger could mean trouble during troubled times.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: Even if you are frustrated, a frustrated chicken should not vote for Colonel Sanders. (Laughter ) It is not in your interest.
SPENCER MICHELS: Watching the campaign and Davis’ use of the harassment issue was Susan Rasky, who teaches political journalism at the University of California.
SUSAN RASKY: I think the initial reaction in some cases was a backlash against the press. I don’t think it’s at all a foregone conclusion that this works.
SPENCER MICHELS: Nevertheless, Rasky thinks women and Democrats should have exploited the issue sooner.
SUSAN RASKY: I mean, a lot of these charges have been in the air around Arnold Schwarzenegger for years. None of the women’s groups chose to come together and try to capitalize, just on public statements he’d made in the course of the campaign, let alone things from the past. And I think you have to ask yourself if one of the reasons was they were afraid to because of Bill Clinton’s record.
SPENCER MICHELS: Davis used a women’s seminar to confront the sexual harassment issue head on, with Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein– women who represent California– at his side. He suggested that Schwarzenegger committed what could be a crime of sexual battery and should be investigated.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS: Some of those incidents, if they are true, constitute a crime. And my point is, is California solving its problems if it elects someone who may himself have committed an illegal offense? That will then saddle the state with a whole another set of problems.
SPENCER MICHELS: Schwarzenegger press aides responded by calling Davis’ comments desperation. The actor’s good showing so far has intrigued political analysts like Rasky and Quinn.
SUSAN RASKY: Arnold Schwarzenegger became a familiar name, a plausible alternative, partly because he didn’t have to say much; he was already known, drew crowds, drew enthusiastic crowds. He’s being credited with bringing people to the polls to register who’d never participated in an election before. You know, we’ll know tomorrow whether that, in fact, proves true.
TROY QUINN: He did not go to the first debate. Everyone now thinks that that was a big mistake. He would have done fine in the first debate. As a matter of fact, if he wins it will be because he settled people’s confidence down in the only debate that he was… that he was in. But he came across good enough that the people said, “yeah, we’re willing to take a chance.” They yet may take that chance. They may look on him and all the womanizing much as California voters looked on Clinton.
SPENCER MICHELS: At the final stop on his bus tour of the state, the Capitol in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger drew more than 5,000 people. As he has throughout the campaign, he said he’s going to change how the state is run.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: We are here, ladies and gentlemen, to clean house!
SPENCER MICHELS: Meanwhile, the other Republican in the race, conservative state Senator Tom McClintock, continued to campaign, refusing to drop out in spite of the Republican Party’s endorsement of Schwarzenegger.
STATE SEN. TOM McCLINTOCK: If every person who believes that I would do the best job as governor actually votes for me, the polls are very clear, we will win in a landslide. ( Cheers and applause )
SPENCER MICHELS: And Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante carries on his campaign often in Latino neighborhoods. He continues to call for a no vote on the recall, but a vote for him in case Davis loses.
LT. GOV. CRUZ BUSTAMANTE: This campaign is live. This campaign is live. There’s always a bunch of people that’s going to vote at the very, very end. There’s always a group of folks who are going to make a decision at the very end. I think that if you were to take a poll today, I think you would see this as dead even.
SPENCER MICHELS: 1.7 million absentee ballots have already been cast in the election, most of them before the latest campaign developments. A large turnout is expected tomorrow, but because of the unique nature of the recall election, analysts say they aren’t sure whether that will benefit Davis or Schwarzenegger.